Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.
People love these words from Matthew 5. They put them on plaques and hang them up on their walls.
However, Jesus' sermon gets a little uncomfortable after that. He talks about the sin that holds us back. Jesus takes sin really seriously. He says some tough things: "You have heard it said you shall not murder. I say to you if you are nursing contempt for somebody in your heart, you are in trouble with God. ... You have heard it said you should not commit adultery. I say to you choose to cultivate lust in your heart, you re in trouble with God" (Matthew 5: 21-22; 27-28 NIV)
And if that's not striking enough, Jesus then says: "If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell." (Matthew 5: 29-30 NIV)
Have you ever seen tose words hanging on the wall?
In this section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is engaged in a fundamental disagreement with the prevailing view in His day about what makes someone "good" in God's eyes. It seems those people were on a "Behavioral Modification Plan".
Of course, you hear this sema kind of thing going on a lot in our day. When people think about holiness, they think about behavior modification. They think, "As long as I'm not engaged in forbidden behaviors, then I'm on the right track. "They see God as a severe guy with a checklist. We get so mechanical about this.
To be "holy"does not mean that I get real good at not doing things I really want to do. Developing lots of will power to override my desires is not holiness.
Holiness means that I become the kind of person who actually wants to do what is right and good and noble and beautiful and true. Jesus says, "What God wants to do is to change something inside of you so you become the kind of person who just naturally does good things with My help because I'm with you."
Jesus' invites us to "Abide in Me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot hear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you. You'll never be able to make that change in your heart. You'll never be able to do good stuff on your own unless you abide in Me. Be My student. Talk to Me. Ask for My help. Be My companion. Be My friend."
There are two practices that we need to cultivate that naturally flow out of holiness. the first one is what I call Ädventures in Obedience." One os the things Jesus says is, "Is you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14: 15 NASB). In other words: you'll actually try to do whatever I say. Jesus will be with us, and as we seek to do the thing that He tells us over time, He begins to rewire us.
Another this that happens when I try to obey by the power os my own will - the realization that it ins't in me. So I need to confess. We try to hide our sin. It's tempting to think, "If I don't get caught, it doesn't really matter." But it does matter. Because we live in a spiritual universe, my sin damages other people, it corrodes me soul, and it wounds God. It matters.
So followers of Jesus who seek to live this holy life commit themselves to the practice of confession. "Confess your sins one to another" (James 5: 16 NASB). Every time there's a great movement of the Spirit of God, one of the things that happen is that there is confession. People come out of hiding.
Because, as Jesus taught us, "blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness."
Sunday Class at Capunga's Church